Chapter 3: Retribution

He stared at the Minister of Magic. He struggled in his bonds but they held tight. Pulling at the bonds hurt. The long cut across his left wrist, the beginning of his suicide attempt, had been healed but he still felt like it was bleeding. But why were they even on him? What would he do anyway, he didn't even have a wand.

"Neville Longbottom," Fudge said. His eyes flickered over the boy's haunted face. His face hardened. "Neville Longbottom, you are charged with the murder of 25 of your own housemates. Have you anything to say?"

"Don't treat them like they're the victims," he muttered. "They drove me to it." He turned his face away from Fudge's glare.

I was naive to think I would only see one case like this.."Repeat what you said, Longbottom," he snapped.

Neville glared at him bitterly. "Why couldn't you just let me die? I was dying, you bastard, I wanted to die, I want to die! Just leave out of things that don't concern you, you old bastard!"

"You're being charged for 25 murders on your own hands," snapped Fudge, "and you're an accomplice to the disappearance-" he swallowed hard- "of Harry Potter. You have nothing else to say but your death pleas, Longbottom?"

"I hate you! I hate all of you!" He spat in Fudge's face. "Why couldn't you just let me die, Fudge?!"

"We seek retribution for you. The many families who are robbed of their children.. would you want to see the killer who killed your brother, your sister, be set up as a martyr, Longbottom?" Fudge turned away, eyes blazing. More insistent than Crouch's son, even.

"Thanks to the Ministry's poor work I have no family!"

Grandmother, you were the beginning of it.. I lost you last year, then no one could take me to St. Mungo's and I was all alone again. An orphanage? Never. I stayed in that house and begged for the money to eat. I was half-alive, and now I'm dead, completely dead, because I have nothing and no one left. No one.

"Your father and mother, that's right." Fudge stood with his hands clasped behind his back, not facing him. "Driven mad by the Cruciatus Curse, performed by Death Eaters." He cleared his throat. "Why then, boy, would you turn on your friends and join the leader of them who deprived you of a normal childhood?"

"You don't know me. No one does. No one except them." Neville turned away violently, the bonds around his hands still constricting him. "You wouldn't understand at all, you didn't feel it, I couldn't take the pity or the hate or the misunderstanding on their faces any longer!"

Fudge pulled Neville's chin so he was looking Fudge directly in the face. That wasn't what he saw, however.

Ginny. The 16 year old redhead sitting there, next to her mother, father, and remaining brothers. Ron had gotten the blast of the Death Curse. Tears streamed down her haunted face, and for one moment their eyes locked. She broke the stare first and leaned, sobbing, into her mother, who comforted her.

Molly Weasley looked at him with horror and hatred and ran her hands over Ginny's vibrant red hair, whispering comfort to the sobbing girl. The rest of the family gave him similar looks, like he was a freak, like he was what he was. A madman.

The Minister of Magic nodded over to the men in the corner. "I'll go to my chambers to make a decision. Please take him to his cell."

They walked over to Neville and released his bonds, just to replace them a second later. He struggled but their grip was rock hard.

"Ginny!" he yelled. The girl's head snapped up. "Ginny, you never did it, you were always nice to me, I don't blame you, Ginny-" he was cut off as they dragged him through a door that slammed shut with a clang.

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The audience shuffled and muttered as the sentencing was about to begin. A voice cried out, "Silence in the court!" Everyone quieted.

Neville sat, tied to the chair by magic, glowering at Fudge. "Well?" he asked.

Fudge stood there, then nodded grimly. "You, Neville Longbottom, are guilty of the deaths of 25 people by your own hands, and the accomplice of one death. 26 lives all taken by you. What say you?"

Neville said nothing, revealed nothing.

"You are sentenced to life in Azkaban," Fudge said coldly. "You will live your life without magic, with dementors, in an empty cell."

"Why, Fudge, I've lived without magic most of my life, it's not much of a change," he said. Fudge ignored this.

"Take him away." So they did. Undoing the bonds and redoing them as last time, they led him away. He said nothing as he was led away, until he reached the door. Then he struggled and yelled.

"Fudge! You bastard! They want me to die, I want me to die, you want me to die, why can't you just kill me?" He started to cry. "You vindictive bastard," he sobbed. "You merciless son of a bi-" the rest of the word was stifled as they put bonds over his mouth and dragged him through the door. The clang had a rather final sound this time.

Ginny looked over at her family. Her eyes still had the haunted look and dark eyes. "I couldn't have saved him," she said, "but I could've tried." She pressed a hand to her face. "I thought he'd eventually stand up for himself, but he took the abuse-then his grandmother died and I really did get scared for him. But.." she trailed, then put her face in her hands. "I never thought it'd come to this. Never."

"They never thought I'd come to this," he said to the guards as they apparated him to Azkaban. "Never." He nodded quickly. "But they were wrong."